Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Lyman Bostock CAL b. 1950, played 1978, d. 1978-09-23. Bostock was a brilliant young centerfielder with the Twins whose early career has been likened to that of another Twin, Kirby Puckett, and whose career comps include Ken Griffey, Sr.. In his first full season in the majors, 1976, he was involved in that year's hot batting title race, finishing fourth (.323) behind George Brett (.333), Hal McRae (.332), and Rod Carew (.331). Bostock was signed during a front-office purge that ejected Harry Dalton, the former Orioles GM who saw that team to greatness, replaced by former Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi.
Bostock's contract made a huge splash when it hit the news: at over $3 million, he instantly became the highest-paid player in the game. It was one of the richest deals ever signed by any athlete, and capped a year in which the Angels had spent $7 million signing free agents Joe Rudi, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor ($5.2 million for those three alone), Dave LaRoche, Ken Brett, and Gary Nolan. Bostock mouthed a few platitudes about Minnesota, but had nothing complimentary to say about Twins owner Calvin Griffith: "He felt like he only needed me when the pressure was on him to sign me," Bostock said. "I hope he misses me more than I'm going to miss him." Asked at one point about his salary being higher than the President's, Bostock quipped, "If Jimmy Carter would hit .336 he would make more, too."
Primed by the huge boost in spending and the sudden prospect of a markedly improved team, the Angels saw an immediate turnaround at the gate. 1978's attendance of 1,432,633 was a 42% improvement over the year before (1,006,774). But Bostock's performance didn't match the kind of numbers he posted for the Twins, and following an 0-4 performance in an April 17, 1978 contest against the Mariners (the Angels won anyway, 7-3), his average had collapsed to .051. In what has since become the high-water mark of fiscal selflessness (or if you're Scott Boras, momentary insanity), Bostock told Los Angeles Times reporter Scott Ostler that
I've got a man here (Autry) who shows me all the respect in the world as an owner, a man and an employer, and I can't do a damn thing. That hurts. This man is not like people I dealt with in the past.Though Bostock went 3-5 in his very next game, he didn't really pull out of his slump until June that year. But the team played well all year despite it, staying close to or just ahead of a hot Royals team that led the Angels by just two games going into September. With two series against the Royals in September, catching and passing Kansas City looked entirely possible.
If I don't do well the rest of April (10 more games), I'm going to ask Mr. Autry not to pay me for the month. I feel I'm receiving money and I should produce. I want to give him his money's worth. If he won't keep the money, I'll ask him to give it to some kind of organization that can use the money.
... The things I said [about the money not affecting his play] were a little premature. I thought I could just go out and play, but there is some pressure because of the money. I hear comments from the stands about how overpaid I am.
They came close. The Angels crushed the Royals 13-3 on September 10 at home, coming within one game of a four-game series sweep, and closing within a half game of first place with 18 left to play. The schedule should have helped the Angels some, too: their remaining games were against a .500 Rangers team, a weak White Sox team that finished 71-90, and three more against the 73-89 Twins, but two games against a tough (93-69) Milwaukee squad, and three more against the Royals on the road. But the Royals got even more help from contests against a bad (69-93) Oakland club, and an epochally awful Seattle club (56-104, the worst Mariners team ever fielded), with only two games against Milwaukee and three against California.
The Angels proceeded to lose three straight games against the Rangers, while the Royals eviscerated the A's in a series of lopsided slaughters (8-1, 9-1, and 5-1). The next series was crucial, but the Angels lost two of three to the Royals on the road, and found themselves trailing the division by four and a half games at the end of September 18. Five days later, following a September 23 loss to the Chisox, they were six games out, as the Angels played .500 ball while the Royals streaked. Along the way, Bostock's resurgence had gone into overdrive; he was now hitting .296, and .300 was in sight.
After the loss, Bostock went to a dinner party with family and friends in nearby Gary, Ind. While in a car with uncle Ed Turner and two women, Barbara Smith, a childhood friend, and her sister, Joan Hawkins, Smith's estranged husband Leonard Smith silently followed them. Once stopped at a traffic light, Leonard Smith fired a shotgun blast intended for his ex-wife — on the far side of the car. Bostock took the full force of the shot in the head, and passed away in a Gary hospital three hours later.
Leonard Smith was tried twice, the first jury deadlocking, while the second found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Sentenced to a state hospital, he spent only seven months there before being released a scant 22 months after Bostock's death. The case was so infamous that it caused Indiana to change their laws regarding the insanity plea so that a mentally impaired person could be sentenced to jail.
"We're professionals and this is our business. We'll play this game like it should be played," manager Jim Fregosi said. And they did: despite the tragedy, they won five of their last seven games, and held off elimination until the final series of the season.
For the Angels, Bostock's death meant a return to the free agency market, again. It would be complicated by a call from his agent, Abdul Jalil, who called Bavasi within hours of Bostock's death with a request for money for an unfinished business deal of which his widow was unaware. Bavasi had already cut Jalil a $145,000 check for his percentage, and the request enraged him; Bavasi retaliated by trading Ron Jackson, Ken Landreaux, and Danny Goodwin, vowing never to deal with Jalil again.
Bostock's widow got the full value of his remaining contract, but paid a heavy price for failing to take out insurance, paying taxes on all of it as straight income, this at Jalil's advice. According to Ross Newhan's The Anaheim Angels, those familiar with the situation said Jalil saved Bostock $10,000, but cost his widow $500,000.
Lew Burdette CAL b. 1926, played 1966-1967, All-Star: 1957, 1959
Ricky Ledee LAN b. 1973, played 2005
Ricky Wright LAN b. 1958, played 1982-1983
To be fair, Abdul-Jalil surely must of mentioned life insurance to Lyman Bostock. It probably was presented in an actuarial table with the odds of still being alive one to seventy years in the future. Perhaps Abdul-Jalil stated that he did not have life insurance himself. All the agent is obligated to do is to put the life insurance card on the table. Mr. Bostock made the decision not to have life insurance. The buck stops there.
As a disclaimer, I do not own any life insurance. I have invested in insurance companies for my sons: Everest Re Group Ltd., Lincoln National Corp., and St. Paul Travelers.
1) For the middle class, to replace productive income for the heirs.
2) For the wealthy, to prevent disasters like being forced to sell family businesses, in whole or in part, family real estate, and so on in the absence of liquid assets to cover the (confiscatory) liabilities of inheritance taxes.
Clearly, Bostock fell into the latter, and while his widow did have adequate cash to pay income taxes following his death, she would have had far more.